coho-stories by nuhman10


									                    Cohousing Stories
   (Remembering why we thought cohousing was a good idea)
Created: 1-10-2002
Updated: 1-27-2002

Compiled by Selwyn Polit ( of CACTUS (The cohousing
association of Central Texas - Umbrella Services at - getting cohousing rolling in Austin
and Central Texas)

This is a collection of stories I compiled and edited from messages in the
archives of the cohousing listserv, Cohousing-L. You can search for original
"Stories" messages (and more recent ones) in the archives. Try searching for:

   +subject:"looking glass" or +subject:stories or +subject:appreciate

   +subject:"encouraging words" or +subject:remembering

To join the amazing worldwide discussion or search the archives, go to the
Cohousing-L Info Page:
This is a long document, so lots to enjoy. It is available to be downloaded as a
Microsoft Word document at:

Note that email addresses are from date of message and may have changed.
Current addresses for many authors may be available by sending a note to

Author: David L. Mandel (
Date: 29 June 1995

House exchanges:Our budget didn't enable us to build official guest quarters in
our common space, but we're doing just as well through cooperation.

A few weeks ago, a resident renter had a graduation party in the common house
after getting her MSW. We were all invited, of course, and so were a number of
friends and relatives from out of town. A good number of them stayed the night in
a couple of units whose regular residents were away or had extra space to share.
The friend and daughter of two members who share a one-bedroom came for a
few weeks -- they stayed with a single member who has a two-bedroom unit.
Then last weekend I benefited from the same generosity. Both my parents and
their respective partners showed up from Chicago for a family event. I posted an
inquiry and presto, three empty houses at our disposal for the weekend. We
made do with two. Coming soon, in August, we're going away for three weeks
and our house will be occupied by a member's daughter and grandson who are
moving back to Sacramento and will be looking for housing in the neighborhood
We gain too, because our dog, fish and garden get fed, watered and walked as
needed and the house doesn't have the vacant look that can invite trouble.

The trend may be going intercommunal, too. We've had a number of out-of-town
cohousers stay here, in one house or another. But last month a Doyle Street
cohousing resident in Sacramento for an affordable housing conference (what
else?) arranged to stay here, and when he brought his boss along, we got use of
a house whose owner was away for the week. And this weekend my family will
escape the valley (109 last Sunday) and meet my mother and friend in the Bay
We'll be staying at Doyle St. for a night or two.
The coolest thing about all this is that as far as I can tell, no one is keeping count
as to how much some people offer their homes and how much others need extra
space. I think people just figure it will all even out in the end, as long as no one
abuses the policy. And if it doesn't quite even out, we still get to meet new

2) The following letter is pretty self-explanatory. It was posted at the common
house and is reprinted here with the author's permission. Capital letters are
where she underlined. Parentheses are mine to add explanation.


Hi -
You may not remember me, but I've been "sick" all week long with a "sore
throat." My name's Liz. Actually "near death" or "suicidal" and "hot poker from
hell down my throat" would better describe it. About halfway through this week I
decided I would, WITHOUT RESERVATION, rather give birth to Ben (her wild 4-
year-old) again than live through one more minute of this. And I mean AT HIS

Anyway, I got the most tremendous unsolicited help this week from so many
people, and want to thank everyone. NOMI (age 16) took care of Ben several
times this week and made it at all possible for Roman (writer's husband) to work
this week. SARAH & MAURA (sisters, 14 and 12, largely responsible for three
preschoolers at their own house) also helped out at VERY short notice when I
finally got to the doctor yesterday. BILLY & LAURISA (another member couple)
watched Ben when he was playing with Forest (their son) several times and, I
suspect, probably when he wasn't too. CHRISTINE (the new MSW renter from
above) did my work for my work team, also on short notice, with help from MAY,
DEBRA & JOHN (three other members). There are probably more people that I
don't even know about who helped me (there are), and I thank them also.Of
course me being me, I was pretty darn cranky all this time too.

So apologies to Cheryl & Ben [big Ben] and anyone else I was snippy with while I
was delerious. It was without a doubt the most miserable illness I've ever had,
and I'm still not well yet. Imagine being in horrible pain and not being able to say
one word about it! My worst nightmare. Most of all, ROMAN the best husband in
the world, bar none, I love you.
Love, Liz
Another time the whole community pulled together even more dramatically than
this was in early spring when Sarah and Maura's sister died suddenly. That's
where the three preschoolers came from. The grandmother is now the children's
legal guardian. Before and after the funeral, everyone was pitching in food, just
being there and especially helping watch the children. Our teenagers especially
have spent a lot of time with the little ones, and it will continue to be a supportive
place here for them until they're grown up. The guardian/grandmother/member
has said she might write something on the experience. Meanwhile she has said
many times what a difference it makes to live in a community like this.

So cohousers of the future, today's moral is that it will be worth all the work and
even all the hassles and hustles I and others report on here that arise after you
move in. Keep at it.

David Mandel, Southside Park Cohousing, Sacramento

Author: Rob Sandelin (
Date: 27 December 1995

Here is a typical cohousing story which is illustrative of the cohousing way of life.

Over the holidays we had several visitors and since the weather was unusually
nice (not raining!) the kids were all playing outside. At one point the kids were not
visible and one of our visitors asked where my kids were. I shrugged and
commented that I didn't know, they were probably at someone’s house. She got
this amazed look on her face and said something to the effect: " You just let you
kids go into whomever’s house they like?" And I said sure, why not? There are
no strangers here other than you. A few minutes later the kids all migrated over
to my house and went into the basement and continued whatever game they
were doing and again my visitor commented: “Don’t people knock on doors
before coming in?" I explained as best I could that there was an unwritten, but
well respected code of conduct, where some houses you just came in, others you
knocked and then went in, and others you knocked and waited for a response.
My four year old, who had come into the room then added: " And at Stephana’s
house when you clean up the toys you get a gummie!" My four year old then
explained, as only a four year old can, which houses had toys, where the cookies
were in each house, and what toys she liked best at each of her friends houses.

My visitor’s amazement at my daughter’s knowledge of the inside of all the
neighbors’ homes made me aware what an amazing difference our neighborhood
offers. I just take it for granted sometimes, forgetting how "unnormal" our lifestyle
really is.

Rob Sandelin

Author: Joani Blank (
Date: 28 December 1995

Here's a little snippet of an anecdote: During the first few weeks of our living at
Doyle St. together, One of my neighbors came through the common house dining
room door, directly from work, with a cheery, "Hi honeys, I'm home!" It gave me
happy goose bumps. Two years later his baby daughter took her first steps just
before common dinner for all of us to observe and celebrate.

Another little one: Thanks to the technology of baby monitors, we can now baby-
sit for one another without either the baby or the sitter having to leave home. It's


Author: Zpaiss (
Date: 29 December 1995

On Christmas day here at Nyland a progressive dinner was planned among 12
households. Since we are so big a trend is evolving to do activities with smaller
subsets to keep things manageable.

A four-course meal was setup where 3 households would make appetizers, 3
make soup or salad, 3 make a main dish and 3 make dessert. On the hour (3, 4
and 5pm) each of the three courses were at different homes with a different set
of people. It was great to see people walking around the neighborhood on their
way to the different homes. Dessert was held in the common house where all 12
families gathered together to eat an outrageous assortment of goodies
(needless to say hunger was no longer a motivating force) and then settle down
together and watch "It's a wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart". I can easily
imagine this becoming an annual ritual here at Nyland.


Author: David M. Dobkin (
Date: 21 Feb 1998

In our community, one of the benefits is that single kids grow up with an
extended family of instant brothers and sisters of various ages. This has the
benefit to the child of having older sisters and brothers to adore (because there is
no sibling rivalry). These other children can, depending upon their ages, act as
siblings or sitters.

Also, as children grow into their teens and tend to become less communicative
with their parents, there are other adults with whom they have become friends
during their earlier years. We have seen it happen that this is where the teen can
speak with a more mature friend, not a peer, when guidance is desired.

We have eight children, ranging in age from 1 to 15. Five boys, three girls. Not
only is it great for the kids, but also the parents get a break as they swap children
and have time for themselves as adults, with adult activities.

David Dobkin
The still unnammed Berkeley cohousing community

Author: Rob Sandelin (
Date: 25 Feb 1998

I was hunkered down underneath my car doing something oily and I could see
down the street as one of my neighbors was trying to set out some metal light
fixtures to spray paint. Every time she lined them up, her toddler would carry one
off or otherwise disrupt the process. I was sort of tied up working on the car so I
couldn't help her, but I didn't need to. Rosemary, another neighbor, walked up to
the toddler with a couple little baskets, and took her hand and diverted her into
picking berries, while the mom gratefully arranged the lights and painted them
without further interruption.

The thing that I did not realize until later reflection is that Michelle never had to
ask for help. Her neighbors saw her needs, and helped her in the sort of quiet,
unspoken way that communities work.
Another story: One day our neighbors were in a tizzy because the in-laws were
coming to visit for the first time, and the house was a mess and they had very
little time to work on it. I took their two boys off on a long expedition in the
greenbelt to look for frogs, bugs, birds and the like. I kept an ear cocked for the
arrival of the in-laws, and delivered the boys right as Grandpa, and Grandma
arrived. The house was spotless, and I never mentioned the field trip. However,
after the in-laws left, I came home to find a six pack of very good beer on my
front step with a simple card that just said, Community works!

Another story: (I could go on all day about this) I noticed one summer evening my
daughter had a new bandage on her elbow. She had been playing on the other
side of the community and had fallen down. A neighbor heard her crying,
comforted her, brought her in and cleaned her up, bandaged the small scrape,
fed her some cookies and juice and sent her off, good as new. I never even knew
about it until I saw the bandage, my neighbor did exactly what I would have done.

My final story for this evening: One day one of the older kids was walking down
the road with an adult I did not recognize. She was clearly showing the place off
and I thought maybe it was a tourist (we get a lot of those) had asked her for a
tour. I thought I would check and it turns out he was her teacher from school. He
was so impressed with her conflict skills, group skills, and maturity in working
with adults that he had come see this place she lived. He later joined another
cohousing group.

The stories go on an on, every day brings new ones. After so many years here I
just take it for granted.

Rob Sandelin

Author: Dahako (
Date: 28 Feb 1998

 At Eno Commons, half our households have kids (bringing us to a total of about
16 kids, almost all of whom are seven years old or younger). We have business
meetings every weekend, plus some socializing during the week, so the kids are
all pretty good buddies with each other and with the grownups.

Our youngest current member, a little girl under a year old, regularly gets passed
around our pancake breakfasts and business meetings. One of the people that is
best at soothing her (except when she's hungry) is an experienced parent with
older kids (and she also happens to teach at a Quaker preschool). So the child
gets an extra grownup to bond with a bit and the parents get to enjoy more of the
meeting and social time.
The older kids have decided they are in charge of designing the playground and
have already gone through a couple of rounds of planning. A little while back they
came to us and asked for help facilitating their meetings (we're still working on
that - here's one for the list: how do you facilitate a meeting when the participants
have 15 minute attention spans?). Then they told us they would be fundraising so
they could have more control over what went into the playground. This from a
group of kids whose median age is about 5.

One of our 5-year-olds told her mother one day that Eno Commons was better.
"Better than what?" her mom asked. "Better than anything!" her daughter replied.

Jessie Handforth Kome
Eno Commons Cohousing
Durham, NC

Author: Jennifer McCoy (
Date: 1 Mar 1998 08:22:33 -0600

Christmas Eve we shared a late night dinner with several neighbors and I
mentioned I'd be putting together a bike late that night for my 5-year old from
"Santa". At 11:00 pm, one neighbor knocked on my door to offer his house for
me to assemble the bike so my son wouldn't discover me doing it. I happily took
the box over where he and his wife (whose own child was grown) took out their
tools. One of the bicycle pieces turned out to be damaged and I was crushed.
These wonderful neighbors stayed up till 1:00 am helping me fix the damaged
part. The next morning my son came downstairs to find his new bike from Santa,
ready to ride.

Jennifer McCoy
Lake Claire, Atlanta

Author: Rob Sandelin (
Date: 16 Oct 1998

A lot of times, those of us who live here sort of take for granted our situation. I
had an interesting experience of having Sharingwood described through the eyes
of a very enthusiastic visitor. Here is a piece of it:

Mary, you have got to check Sharingwood out! To start with, the place is alive
with kids. They run through the bushes and chase each other and popup out of
nowhere, then dash off again, clearly having the times of their lives. You know
how shy Tina is? Well, when we arrive for our tour, she was approached
immediately by three other little girls and invited to a wonderful little tea party.
They had set up on a log stump a delightful little camp and Tina was immediately
part of their group. We couldn't get her to come with us as we walked around the
place. The mother of one of the other kids assured us she would watch her for
us. It was so, I don't know, easy. I guess they do this all the time, watch over
each others kids so a new one just gets added to the flock.

The neighborhood is like houses set in a national park. The houses are tucked
amid these giant trees and its all very nicely landscaped. There is a little patch of
woods right in the middle of the first group of houses where the kids have camps
and trails. In the greenbelt, which is huge and surrounds all the homes, they have
their own campground! They have campfires and sing songs and roast
marshmallows. Can you imagine? Huge trees and trails through the woods. We
saw two deer that just stared at us, then went about their business like they
owned the place! A whole group of kids and adults were having fun, laughing and
throwing hay at a work party to cover up their new playfield. Playfield! They even
have a playfield. The new phase is designed so the homes will all surround a big
central park area. Its incredible, like a dream place to raise kids.

The common house is smaller than I thought it would be but very comfortable
and homey feeling. A large peace group (from outside) was meeting there over
the weekend, which tells you something about these people. We are going to the
community dinner this week. They cook meals for each other! Everybody takes a
turn helping a couple times and the rest of the time you just come to dinner. Can
you imagine? Its like I died and went to heaven.

We had the most wonderful conversations just standing around in the street.
Many of the neighbors came over to meet us and say hello. Remember that
church we went to in Buffalo? It was kind of like that, the warm, easy friendliness
of everybody and the sense of instant inclusion. We got three invitations to
people’s homes for tea. I could have stayed forever. This cohousing is going to
change the world. No really. Its like everything you ever dreamed about from a
neighborhood, only really happening, not just dreams.

Author: (
Date: 25 Dec 1998

Dear Cohousing Listmembers and friends,
I just watched the Christmas sun set into the Pacific dunes from our new deck
then ran downstairs to take the laundry off the line before it gave up the
accumulated heat of this most gloriously clear sunny day. All throughout the site
and along the creek this morning there were monarch butterflies everywhere,
enjoying the warmth.

It is very quiet here at Tierra Nueva Cohousing on the central California coast. Of
the sixteen families who have moved into our homes, most have travelled
elsewhere to be with parents or extended families. A couple of the singles shared
Christmas dinner at a local restaurant out on the patio above the ocean. On site,
the aromas of roasting and barbequeing turkeys filled the air as families gathered
in their individual homes to share private Christmas dinners.

We celebrated as a community last Saturday night at the first annual Weird
Food Cafe Dinner Dance. And dance we did under a disco ball, to the eclectic
musical tastes of various community members, ranging from Manhattan Transfer
to Ella Fitzgerald to Talking Heads. It was a raging success. Candlelight and a
huge tree was the decorating theme, and it transformed our common house into
a magical yule garden. The food was planned to be served in courses in different
parts of the common house, all through the evening to encourage people to stay
late and dance in between courses. We had baked brie, curry mango chutney,
fresh oysters on the half shell, Cajun chicken with a variety of hot mustards,
prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, chocolate chicken, chocolate mousse, crab cakes
(in the wee hours) and much champagne and eggnog. One of our single senior
members described the event as "the best party I've been to in 25 years"! We
were there until 3 am!

The night before we celebrated Hanukkah with all of the kids lighting the many
menorahs, including Marya's, who passed away in July. Her picture was nestled
among the lit candles and we welcomed her spirit to the ceremony.

Our next gathering will be New Year's Eve where we will be making traditional
tamales together. We'll also do the secret Santa gifts and the 6th or 7th annual
White Elephant Gift Exchange. This has been a favorite social through the years,
and we have one fruitcake that promises to make its 4th appearance at the gift
exchange. Rumor has it that one of our newer members actually
*likes* fruitcake. Hopefully he'll get it, take it home and eat it.

 It's time to gather at a community member's house for dessert. Cheesecake and
gingerbread men call. Solstice and Christmas blessings to all of you,

Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva Cohousing

Author: PattyMara
Date: 31 July 1999

 New Year's day, after a polar bear swim in the Pacific. Tonight is a balmy
summer evening, with a rosie sunset lighting the dunes.It is utterly quiet here
since so many families are off camping or vacationing. Common house meals
are attended by most everyone, but numbers are relatively small, 15-30 diners,
instead of the usual 35-50. I helped cook a meal for 33, a couple of evenings ago
with my neighbor HariNam. We served fresh vegetable curry, with produce
picked from our communal garden, the local farmer's market and our c.s.a. farm.
Plus luscious sweet potato tempura, with a rice wine vinegar cucumber salsa,
basmati rice, Thai ice coffee and watermelon. Corn dogs and corn on the cob for
kid food. It was a deep pleasure to prep, cook, serve and eat.

After dinner, eight women from Tierra Nueva and two guests from a neighboring
community (Halcyon) gathered down at our garden campfire ring to build a fire
and share a full moon ceremony. We were a diverse group of women, coming
from many traditions, yet we were able to find connections as we remembered
and prayed for our families and friends.

 One of the most delightful aspects of being here has been to watch our
landscaping take root and grow. Our private yards are finding very individual
expressions, ranging from low maintenance sand to lush wild gardens to
traditional lawns and decks. The common landscaping is particularly stunning,
since we have two ornamental horticulturists who led us through planting a
gorgeous variety of perennials and native plants. We have an extensive culinary
and medicinal herb garden as well as an organic veggie garden complete with a
scarlet runner bean tepee and two large corn spirals. It is amazing to watch the
garden expand as more beds get tilled and planted by various members. Along
the common walkways the sunflowers are towering over 8 feet tall.

We've had two of our community's dogs die this summer. It was a tender
gathering that met to mourn the passing of Nellie and comfort her owner.

The Weird Food Cafe presented "Like Water For Chocolate" night with exquisite
food from the cookbook, stunning decorations and a contest to guess which
wedding dress belonged to which woman. We had a dozen dresses hanging all
around the Common House. The movie was shown as well, but most folks
stayed downstairs in the candlelight to party together.

Our Fourth of July Barbeque set a record for number of people attending. We fed
75 people fresh fish, ribs, campfire baked veggies and peach cobblers...then put
on our annual fireworks show in the village green.

As families return from vacations we are planning Monday night slide shows for
trip highlights. One of our members, Kit, just returned from Africa, with many
many rolls of film to share. Others visited the Grand Canyon,
Wisconsin, Seattle, the Eastern Sierras and northern California Redwood parks.
I'm looking forward to welcoming them all home and hearing the voices of
children ringing through the site again.

Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva Cohousing, Central CA Coast, San Luis Obispo County

Author: Denise Meier
Date: 31 July 1999

Last night we had an impromptu potluck dinner in the woods; the food was great,
the kids were running around on the plaza together, different adults playing with
them in shifts; the long late-afternoon light made the new landscaping and the
really beautiful architecture look even better...and I felt really happy, getting a
very good reminder of why we put so much effort and angst and money into
making this happen.

Denise Meier
Two Acre Wood
Sebastopol, CA

Author: MartyR707
Date: 21 January 2000
New Year's Eve - and the millennium! What a great opportunity to stay home and
still have a party! No driving, etc. So no one here was into doing much planning,
but we mostly knew we'd be around. We had a wonderful evening that just
happened pretty organically. One home was set up as media central so we could
drop in and see midnight come in around the world. someone else got a piñata
that the little kids could pound like heck - it was so funny to watch. There were
games at one table. Then a neighbor (not coho) came to tell us her sister and
husband had brought their Taiko drums over and did we want to try them. THAT
was the highlight of the night in my book. Most of our community trouped over
and pounded on those drums to our hearts content - what a rush. Many of us will
be signing up for classes soon.

Back to the Common House for skits created on the spot by teams. Then
dancing, food and Midnight! Champagne confetti and after all that.... outside to
some wonderful fireworks that one of the members had bought. It just went on
and on for hours with surprises. Those of us that are hard core ended up and one
man's home for more champagne, chocolate cake, and conversation til 3 in the
morning. And the best part- just a few steps walk home and to bed.

When I dragged myself out at 11:00 a.m., the common House was completely
cleaned up and there was a marvelous brunch on the table of the Common
House - cooked mostly by one of our "nonresident members" who arrived early to
get it going. The rest of the day - New Year's Day 2000 - was spent planting
peach trees, kiwis, lemon trees and more - basic landscaping and clean up - a
great way to start the millennium.
Tonight, right after a delicious Common meal of fresh tuna from the coast, we all
trouped out to watch the eclipse in one of our neighbor's telescope that he had all
set up. The little kids rode their trikes around in circles in the plaza as we all
watched the moon go into hiding.

so, there's a taste - I will tell more. Perhaps the Russian theme dinner we had
here last weekend - complete with herring and vodka! Maybe someone else here
at TAW wants to tell one?

Marty Roberts
TAW - Sebastopol

Author: MartyR707
Date: 30 January 2000

<< At least twice you mentioned that people from outside the community, either a
neighbor or a member who does not live there. How do you handle non-resident
members? I was wondering how formal the relationship is. We are starting to talk
about this since we have had people outside our membership who want to be
involved, and "hang out" with us some times. >>

Well, here's a short version: we had lengthy discussions before move-in on how
to handle this. Of course there was lots of disagreement and varying points of
view. Especially on what sort of financial contribution they might make -
anywhere from "nothing" to "it cost us a bundle to build this, they should pay to
use it" to "why don't they buy a piece of furniture for the common house". We
finally decided to move in first and talk about it later. There is a currently a
proposal brewing for discussion (I haven't seen it).

Meanwhile, there is a couple who didn't get a unit, but miraculously found a rental
next door who are active members of the community. They are on committees,
share childcare, eat with us, etc. It has not been formalized yet, but just
happened because they made themselves attractive by coming to meetings and
Helping! Actually she is kitchen manager even!

And there is a single mother who couldn't afford to buy in but lives two blocks
away and has been part of the group almost since inception. She also serves on
committees, comes to meetings and cooks. those are our two "informal
nonresident members" so far. Both households were members before we built
and have known us for some time. Others are starting to show interest. Some of
us don't want to have an open dinner scene where whoever wants to can come
eat for $3, but we also like the idea of more cooks, friends, etc. so we are still
working it out. Stay tuned.
The neighbors that hosted the Taiko drummers are just that - neighbors across
the street. They were our biggest opponents when we were trying to get city
approval (an apple orchard was cleared for 14 houses on two acres right out their
front window) - and have become our best friends ever since we moved in. they
always liked us, but had hoped for fewer homes in their view.
Their daughter baby-sits, we share gardening ideas, they gave us champagne
with personalized labels for our housewarming, etc. On New Year's while we
were drumming in their driveway, the husband even came out with handfuls of
glasses and champagne to share around. We recently had the whole family over
for common dinner.
Marty Roberts
Two Acre Wood

Author: PattyMara
Date: 30 January 2000

At Tierra Nueva (central
CA coast) we discussed this ad nauseam *before* move-in with no clarity
whatsoever. It is a dreadful time to consider non-member use of common
facilities because most everyone is stinging from the rising costs, escalating
tensions and general burn-out of development and construction.

Best to wait, like Two Acre Wood did, until the reality settles in. Here we had a
full fledged member opt to buy a house that borders the site when it came up for
sale, before construction even began here. Then she enticed another member to
share the mortgage, which for us meant the loss of two members, at a time when
we needed all the committed members we could scrape up to make the project a
go with the bank. It was not a happy time, lots of stress and grumbling. Then
when the two ex-members wanted to discuss possible neighbor-membership to
use the common house etc, it was difficult.

We ended up not dealing with it at all. The two ex-members, now neighbors,
ended up splitting up their shared mortgage and one moved out. The remaining
neighbor has really hung in there with us, contributing time on committees,
cooking, work days and recently donating a handsome sum to our pledge drive
for building our workshop. She has integrated very well into the community, much
to many folks' surprise. And she has been able to offer us very appreciated
overflow parking on her land, when it gets tight here.

I look forward to more interaction with our neighbors, at-distance friends and
hopefully some house exchange possibilities in the future. I suggest that the
discussions be postponed until after move-in, based on our experience. There
are many many opportunities to deal with the reality of life in community that
really can't be accurately sussed out before the fact.
Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva Cohousing, central CA coast

Author: MartyR707 (
Date: 11 June 2000

We started moving into our new cohousing homes at Two Acre Wood last July
and the last families were in by September. After five years (more for a few) of
planning, hard work, disappointments, and triumphs, we were in our beautiful
new homes designed by community member and architect Michael Black. What
has this first year been like? Here are the impressions from a few of our
members starting with mine:

Marty Roberts, single woman:

For a single woman, cohousing is delightful. I moved from an admittedly peaceful
existence in my own quiet home in Santa Rosa to a community full of people and
activity. The delight is that there is always someone around to have dinner with,
to go to the movies with, or to sit on the patio and sip a margarita with and rave
about how the garden is growing. No need to make complicated plans, or even

The community meals a couple times a week are great to come home from work
to (even if I'm cooking), but sometimes even nicer, are the spontaneous meals
that occur between a few households that all have some food and good company
to share.

And the children! It is wonderful to have 9 or 10 young children as part of my
extended family - I have known several of them since they were born and will
probably know them at their weddings. Planting seeds in the garden with 2.5
year old Jewell, or dragging my old dolls down from the attic with 7 year old Liora
is truly heart-warming and fun! Turning Elsa upside-down and knowing the peals
of laughter that will follow, to have the giggling and innocence "in my face" is a
great antidote to "being in my 50's"!!

Wendy Ellyn, wife of Ben Lev and mother of 2:

I might sound like a Pollyanna, but there is no place in the world I'd rather live
right now. I love the way the kids flow into and out of each other's houses, and
the way the adults (both parents and non-parents) enjoy the kids and each other.

My youngest daughter was born a month after we moved in, and by now she
must think she has about 10 siblings and 20 aunts and uncles. My 3-year-old
loves to perform for people, and it's been great fun to watch her and her friends
do impromptu songs and dances in the common house. My husband loves to
cook in huge quantities, and he's had the time of his life cooking common house

There are so many other highlights from our first year here--the kids making a
human pyramid on the lawn, candlelight dinners on the plaza, the guys cooking a
voluptuous Mother's Day brunch, the way everyone helped out when a
neighbor's dog died, realizing one morning that if I had car trouble I wouldn't have
any problem finding a car to borrow...the list goes on and on.

It has taken a lot from all of us to build this community, to get moved in, and to
organize processes and structures to keep things running smoothly.
The road continues to be bumpy at times. But the payoff is so delightful!

Steve Einstein, husband of Karen and father of twins:

What a challenging thing this co-housing adventure has been. It's full of
adjustments, and compromises, disappointments, together with frequent
moments that are joyful and full of the sense of community that we all were
hoping for. I think this has been a period of learning how to live together, and
deciding just how collective we actually want to be. (Some have described co-
housing as 'condo meets commune'. )
A Yiddish classic from the turn of the century was entitled 'Life is With People'. I
feel that way about life here at Two Acre Wood. My life is so much richer and
more engaged because I get to share this space with 26 other adults and 10
kids. We share the pain of someone's pet who has died, or a mother in Chicago
who is ill, or the loss of a job. And then we share the joy of the birth of a new
child, the growth of vegetables in our new garden, a soak with friends in a hot
tub, a shared meal. Conflicts over just about every aspect of sharing this small
corner of Sebastopol are common. We debate and discuss, and then revisit a
discussion or decision, and then eventually come to a consensus of sorts, and
move on. It's not a process for the impatient or fiercely independent. But it's a
process that brings me closer to my neighbors, and helps all of us in continuing
to define who and what we are. This is a journey we're on here. It's an unfolding
adventure, and an exciting time to be a part of creating this new village of ours.

And this was written by Steve on another day:

The other night I went with the kids to visit Brinnton, his wife Karen, and their
daughter Grace, friends who live over on Neva St. The small house was a fixer
that my friends spent a good amount of time reforming and their finished product
is absolutely adorable. And my God, the back yard was massive and stunning. I
recognized the wave of envy that was invading me. A small tasteful house with
lots of character, a backyard to die for, and neighbors you know and like, ...
jeesh, it looked so perfect. So as I was leaving Karen asks me how we like
cohousing. I hate that question. How do we do justice to a question like that in
two sentences? I end up saying "it's good, ... it has drawbacks, but we're happy
with it for now, and it makes sense for us, ... yada yada yada "

I'm feeling a bit sad as I pop the kids into the car and we drive off, leaving sweet
Neva St. and all that privacy and massive backyard and character behind. A
minute later we pull into our place. Just as we came in, Mary pulls into her spot.
She bounces out of her car greeting us mightily. She's been to drumming class
and is even more upbeat than usual. A moment later Tom lopes along with big
ole Dailah. He asks about Malka who has an injured leg, and then he jokes with
the kids about this or that. Holly waves from her kitchen sink, Koby hollers
"goodnight Leo" in the direction of Leo's house though he is nowhere to be seen,
and then Michael J appears with a friend. We make a date for early morning
tennis. Excellent. There's cackling coming from Louise's house again. Marty
spills out with Louise right behind. I tell them how nice it is to hear laughter again
from Louise's. We all agreed. We weren't home two minutes and we'd seen six
friends and neighbors, and hollered goodnight to another. All that sweetness and
quiet privacy of Neva St. was eons away. I didn't really care how pathetic a
backyard we had. It was fun coming home.

Mary Ruthsdotter, wife of Dave Crawford, mother of grown daughter:

My husband and I came into this grand adventure with modest expectations. The
house we had lived in for 20 years suited us well, but we did not have a lot in
common with our mostly college-age neighbors. When we read about a meeting
to discuss cohousing, our curiosity was piqued. Living more cooperatively made
sense. We went to that first meeting, and we were still there five years later when
the new front-door keys were distributed.

What were we hoping to achieve? A place for forward-looking people eager for a
new variation on village life. Interesting conversations with people of varied ages
and backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. Kids in our daily life, for
enjoying silliness with or for reading with in our hammock. Material resources
owned in common for economic efficiency. Good company sharing yard work
and building projects. Dinners and parties without driving across town.

What did we find? All of the above, to our delight. Evening margaritas, walks to
town, shared meals, outings to the beach - it's rare not to find at least one person
available to join us. Ready conversationalists that match our different interests.
Kids as lively and sweet as they come. And even more. We've been touched by
our neighbors' loving interest in our well-being as we've faced unexpected career
changes, cared for our ill parents, or tackled untimely car repairs. Village life
does suit us well, as we'd anticipated.

Denise Meier, wife of Michael Jacob, mother of one:
It's late afternoon, and my daughter Liora, and Karen's twins, Koby & Elsa, are
playing together in our hot tub, while Karen and I share a beer and talk about the
day. Harry, my next-door neighbor with whom we share the backyard, brings his
son over and asks if we can watch Leo in the hot tub while he attends a
Landscape Committee meeting. "Sure." While Olivia, age 10 is away for a couple
of months, Liora, age 7-1/2 is the senior kid, and most of the other kids, ranging
in age from 2 to 5, listen to her better than to their parents. Leo climbs into the
tub and Harry takes off. Karen and I listen while they resume a game they started
yesterday, a long rambling story about 4 kids with names and ages remarkably
similar to theirs:

"One night four kids met in the common house and tried to decide what to do.
They decided to have a sleep-over at Leon's house. So they all went to Leon's. In
the morning they went to Ben's house for breakfast. Then they decided to go
exploring...." And on it goes. These kids are actually too young to gather in the
common house at night by themselves, and most of them don't do sleepovers
yet, either. But they will.

Recently a new baby was born into our community. Sometimes, as I watch her
passed from lap to lap during a community meal or a general meeting, I wonder
what it would be like to come into consciousness of the broader world with so
many loving adults and children around; always someone to smile at, to play
with, to hold you. I envy her, having grown up in a small nuclear family with no
extended family within 2000 miles. I watch my daughter with her "pseudo-
siblings", and notice that my worries about raising an only child have eased a lot
since we moved in here. Not only does she have other kids to grow up with, to
love and to fight with, but she has adults who will be there for her at times in her
life when she can't or won't turn to her parents. For my family, this community
provides a strong, loving base that sustains us as we move through our lives.

(Marty again:) I asked a few kids what they liked about living in cohousing:

Leo, age 4:
I like going in Liora's hot tub.
I like to eat candy. (Sometimes get some at other people's houses along with
juice, ice cream, or gum!)
I like Kids Club and working in the garden.
One time Sophie took a bath with me at our house - we like taking baths together
at different kids houses. (Editor's comment: I think this is the kids version of our
When I slept over at Arielle's, I got to sleep in the top bunk!

Liora, age 7.5:
The "little" kids aren't always annoying, and sometimes they're fun. All the grown-
ups are nice. I like being close to places to play on the property at Two Acre
Wood and the kids around to play with. I like my house - it has an upstairs and a
place for a loft in my room. I like Taiko drumming on the plaza. I liked going in
Marty's attic and playing with her dolls - I always have fun with Marty! (Marty
here: I have to admit that last part made me feel pretty good!)

Marty Roberts
Two Acre Wood, Sebastopol, CA

Author: "Kay Argyle" <>
Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2001

One of the guys had mentioned Monday night at the common house party that
they'd gotten the air compressor in the workshop running. When we noticed a
tire was low, just as we were leaving to see family Christmas afternoon, he
showed us how to turn it on, and his visiting father-in-law loaned us a tire gauge
to double-check that my 30-year-old bicycle gauge was giving an accurate
reading. The pressure got lower between every service station air pump during
the hundred miles there and back, and the tire developed an audible hiss, so we
planned that first thing the next day we would take the car to a tire shop.

Wednesday, the lady whose backyard is kitty corner from ours stopped by to
offer us an air compressor that ran off a car cigarette lighter, saying she'd noticed
we had a flat. We thanked her very much, and explained about the compressor
in the workshop.

We went out to the car a little later. My room-mate started laughing. Someone
had left a couple of cans of compressed air next to the car.

Wasatch Commons
Salt Lake City, Utah

Author: "Robyn Williams" <>
Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2001

How was the period of peace, goodwill and excessive shopping at your place?
We had a solstice/holy-day celebration with an Indian (sub-continent) theme. A
lovely low key evening with friends and family, delicious curries, a circle dance
and lots of fun. We gathered early on Christmas morning for breakfast. We sat
on the lawn, under a sparkling blue sky, a soft, warm breeze blowing through the
trees, bird song filling our ears ... it's summer here, I just thought I'd rub it in a bit
;0). Anyway, it was a beautiful start to the day, exchanging small gifts, mostly
homemade. Jenny had made little stockings filled with toffees, which she'd hung
on our elm tree for the kids. One friend had to leave early to visit in-laws. She
said, cheerfully, "Well, I'm off to be tolerated instead of staying here where I'm

Season's greetings everyone
Robyn Williams
Pinakarri Community
Fremantle, Western Australia

Author: Marty Roberts <>
Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2001

A few recent ones:
My 18 year old cat with failing kidneys needed twice-weekly fluid infusions with a
big needle. Two cohousing neighbors who are nurses volunteered to do the
procedure (for several months). Towards the end when he was very bad and
needed twice DAILY infusions, two more neighbors joined in and it was easily
accomplished. During his last few days, the 6 year twins across the way drew
pictures for me and came to visit him daily. When he died we had a little ritual in
my living room and then proceeded to my backyard for a little burial ceremony.
This is my third pet to die since I moved in (my dog had cancer and the cats were
19 and 18 years old), and we had similar experiences each time. I am very
attached to my pets, so this has been incredibly helpful.

This week, I took a neighbor's very sweet cat to the vet for surgery since she was
working and I am caring for cats right now for two separate households that are
out of town - Figaro and Mamoosh.

One night, I had three spontaneous invitations to dinner. Since I live alone this is
so appreciated.

Today, I went down to Ben and Wendy's to tell Ben he could pick up the 20 shoe
boxes that I needed to get rid of and he needed for crafts projects. Two year old
Elena wanted me to read a story right then and there, so I did!

Our Christmas party was the best ever! Several of us went to a friend's to pick
up a huge tree that had to be cut down for thinning their property. Others helped
put it up and contributed lights and ornaments. Connie the decorating queen
decorated the place to the max. Several amateur musicians rehearsed
Christmas music for a few weeks to entertain us. I played the piano for the first
time in 25 years and no one laughed! The food was an amazing group effort

Movie nights in the Common House lounge are often spontaneous and cozy -
something fun to do almost always materializes very easily. And then there's
West Wing Club on Wed. nights at one of the only homes that has cable. She
isn't even home, but opens her house gladly.

Well, it appears I could go on and on. But I'll stop for now.
Marty Roberts
Two Acre Wood, Sebastopol, CA

Author: Terri Hupfer <>
Date: Sun, 30 Dec 2001

I have a few to add. We have just moved into our place. The last of the 32
households moved in Dec. 22nd, so we are all in the middle of moving stress and
life changes and holiday madness, yet, even in all this, it works.

1. We started our celebrations with a light party, lots of candles, bringing in the
light to the dark of winter, etc. It was the first party in our Common House. There
have been more; a latke party, birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas
dinner, and impromptu cookie baking and potlucks all in a CH I'm not even sure
we have C of O on.

2. One resident had back surgery, several people spontaneously brought meals
and offered to walk his dog.

3. One resident had a huge leak, her neighbors discovered it, and had most of it
handled before she was even able to make it home.

4. We have had 15 people in our 7 capacity hot tub, steaming and chatting away
in the cold, starry night.

5. My neighbor and I regularly drop off mystery novels on each other's doorsteps.

6. We help each other carry in groceries, pick up children, and fix broken things.

7. Our kid's room is full of lovely toys and furniture, all donated by residents

These are some of the things to be thankful for in cohousing, even though most
of us have been here less than 2 months.
Terri Hupfer
Pleasant Hill Cohousing
Bay Area, California

Author: Elizabeth Stevenson <>
Date: Sun, 30 Dec 2001

I've been thinking about responding to this thread, but the truth is, I don't know
where to start. Many of the first few months of living here were just like what
everyone else is writing.

Let me share a few things about what it's like after over 8 years.

The overriding event of this year for us has been May's passing. We took care of
her in shifts, along with professional nurses, one of them the mother of a
resident, for critical times. With so many people doing this, it never felt like a
burden. People took turns coordinating her care, as well. That was a big task,
and our best people organizers handled it seamlessly.

After May died, my son and I went to see her. He got to say goodbye, and
witnessed death close up. My first look at death was my grandfather in a casket.
As you all know, it's very artificial and, I think, creepy, to see them made up to
look like they are sleeping. I'm glad Ben got to see the real thing. She looked
serene and more beautiful than ever.

This past holiday season was celebrated at length. Some years, it just gets more
attention than others. This year, it seemed important to share more than ever. My
daughter made up a new Chanukah song on the spot, sung to the tune of "Oh
Tannenbaum". She has no stage fright whatsoever, and belted it out at dinner.
"Oh, Chanukah"-sure to be a classic.

I came to work one day at the end of the semester, and one of my tutors had a
picture of me at our CH Halloween party, in a god awful bright orange shirt I wore
for the occasion. Let's just say it's not my color. I had to threaten him with many
punishments before he would tell me where he got it. Turns out he's also a
security guard at the place where my next door neighbors work, they were
showing him pictures, and he recognized me. These kind of "small world" events
happen all the time when you're networked to 25 families. I can't go anywhere in
this small town of over 300,000 without running into someone who knows

One of our former residents came back for a visit today, with several of her
grandchildren. Her kids and mine ran around like a pack of friendly dogs, ranging
in age from 4 to 15. When she got here, I was in the CH, preparing food for
tomorrow's dinner. I came out to the alley and told her to get her butt inside and
help me with the cooking. She happily obliged, and we talked for two hours while
the homemade eggnog got cooked. She tells me every time she comes to visit
that coming back reminds her how much she misses living here. I was sad to see
her go this afternoon, but glad to know that even though some people have left
for their own important reasons, they remain with us in spirit.

I once thought that I wouldn't be able to leave here, because I liked cohousing so
much. I sometimes kept track of developments around the country in places I'd
like to live, for possible future reference. But I have come to the conclusion I
couldn't just live in any cohousing. This one is my home.

All the transitions that we make here are better for sharing them in community.

Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento California

Author: "Eris Weaver" <>
Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2002

My partner Leslie and I spent 2 1/2 weeks over the holidays vacationing in
Hawaii. A fellow co-houser took care of our two cats, and two other cohousers
came with us!

Eris Weaver            
Sonoma County, Northern California

Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2002

At Tierra Nueva Cohousing, on the central CA coast, we are entering our fourth
year of living together.

My children are older, age 21 and 17, and the time we spend together is precious
to me. I guard family traditions because our time together these days is limited.
Our daughter came home from college and brought us all the flu for the holidays.
Under normal conditions I would have chosen to stay home and prepare a full
holiday meal for just Bruce and the kids. This year I was more than willing to
surrender the cooking duties and just show up at the common house for a
Christmas day potluck. With my green salad in hand, we walked over, chose a
table in the corner for the four of us and our box of Kleenex and enjoyed a turkey
dinner with all the trimmings. Most of the other families with children had traveled
away to be with grandparents, so the gathering was small and amazingly quiet.

By New Years Eve all the wayfarers had returned and we all gathered for our
best party yet. It was organized by an art historian in the group, with the theme of
a 1920's Paris Masked Ball. We had mask making earlier in the week, and were
encouraged to come in costume. Still in the wake of the flu, I came as a survivor
of the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918, with an explanatory placard around
my neck, which I could cough behind. Personal favorite costumes were: Freda
Kahlo with her one eyebrow, several Frenchmen with striped shirts and berets,
and a cigarette/cigar woman from the Paris clubs, with full crinolines and
cleavage (costume worn by our beloved landscape manager who is most often
seen digging in the dirt, or pruning or planting). Another favorite transformation:
imagine "Anybody" the tomboy from West Side Story. She bears a striking
resemblance to our Steph who usually wears jeans, sweatshirt and tennies.
Imagine our surprise when Steph showed up at the ball completely transformed
in a short little black cocktail dress, high heals and diamond accessories, singing
along to a Barbara Streisand song. What a knockout. The music was a
compilation of all the favorite songs requested by the group members earlier in
the week and burned into a custom c.d. So we danced and indulged in a dessert
potluck and toasted the New Year at midnight.

A fine party. And the best part: I didn't do a blessed thing but show up. This is a
first for me in my ten years of coho history. And it was wonderful. Cohousing is a
good idea when one has the flu. Another tidbit: When my elderly friend Elizabeth
visited in early December, I was reminded again how grateful I am for all of the
handicap accessible features that we built into our common facilities. Crippled
with arthritis, Elizabeth is able to walk from the handicapped parking, use stair-
free path handrails, enter the common house and use the ADA guest room and
bathroom totally independently. My home has stairs leading to the porch, and
internal steps, so Elizabeth needs help to come sit in my kitchen and sip tea, but
she is so delighted to be here that we make do. I urge all developing
communities to invest in accessible common facilities. Cohousing is a good idea
for people with physical challenges.

I'm curious how the New Year will develop. I suspect that our lessons in
community living will continue. It won't be smooth sailing. There will be
personality clashes, hurt feelings, lessons about setting boundaries, feeling
included/excluded and different definitions of community work. Yada yada yada.
We'll cycle in and out of fully attended business meetings, community workdays,
regular meals together, and occasional parties. I won't be worried when the
attendance slips at any of the above, because I trust in the cycle of return.

When this thread first appeared, thanks to Robyn, I wondered if there was
anything I could contribute to the discussion. Our community life has been going
through some interesting growing pains, and I had noticed a distancing from
community interaction. Part of it may be due to the fact that four houses are in
the process of being sold internally among current community members, with one
woman leaving to form a new community, one couple returning from living
nearby, and two families swapping homes. In addition, one couple is in the
process of finalizing a divorce (both living in two homes here, sharing custody of
the kids) and another couple just announced they are beginning divorce
proceedings. Add to the mix a rental situation where an absentee owner rented
his unit to a "section 8" family (in California, this is a rental subsidy to social
service clients to help make housing affordable). There was no community
involvement in the selection, orientation or integration of the new family, and we
were all thrust into a most uncomfortable situation. It was unfair to the family,
who had no clue whatsoever about cohousing and community life, and it was
difficult for the rest of us for a variety of reasons. We all learned from the
experience, to be sure, and the lessons continue.

I'm looking forward to enjoying a new supper club that has formed among five
families, called The Taste Buds. We rotate cooking for one another, once a
week, so every five weeks, it's my turn to host. It came about partly out of
frustration with common meals being too large and too restricted financially for
gourmet meals, and partly from the desire for more intimate dining. With the taste
buds we cook for 10 adults (instead of the usual 30-40 at common house meals)
and can explore more artistic and gourmet options. It is fun, challenging to fit
everyone at the table in our small houses (we feed the little kids first) and slightly
clandestine, because we have chosen not to advertise that we are doing it, to
avoid the inclusion/exclusion debates. I love the intimacy of eating in our homes,
where the acoustics are more comfortable, and the conversation is select. We
are old friends (pre-Tierra Nueva), and I value our time separate from community
functions. In a sense it is "community within community" and we are just
exploring the edges of this territory.

May your new year be blessed with creativity exploration and the bounty of
community life,
Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva, central CA coast

Author: "Rob Sandelin" <>
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2002

A few from Sharingwood recently

Sitting in a low grade funk and having a two year old come up and tell you all
about their day and then realizing that the funk is gone and I'm smiling.
Creating a surprise wedding shower for a couple that never had one (they sort of
eloped). They were very delighted.

Grabbing a rake meaning to clean up the fallen leaves and finding not only that
somebody did the job, but they created piles in such a way that the kids could
jump into them, a touch I would not have thought of and something I learned for
next time.

Having an intense conversation with another adult about one of their problems,
helping them find their needs, and then feeling wonderful when the whole
situation worked out excellently. And then finding a loaf of fresh made banana
bread-still warm- with a simple note of thanks. Extra wonderful!

Sitting quietly watching a squirrel collect cones to cache, and being joined, one
by one, by 12 other people, who all spontaneously cheered as "our" squirrelly
chased off another interloper who was intent of pilfering all that hard work.

There was a need for some extra computer storage, and within an hour no less
than 3 zip drives are offered, and 20 zip disks.

Just about everyday some little thing goes on which shows you that the people
who live here care about each other.

Rob Sandelin

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